Attending a funeral is always a hard thing to do. It’s really difficult to know what to say, what is expected of you and what you can do to help. The important thing to remember is that your attendance in itself is comforting for the family, so rest safe in the knowledge that just by turning up, you are doing your bit. Beyond that, there are several pieces of etiquette that you should follow. We’ll let you know them here so you can bear them in mind when next you have the unenviable job of attending a funeral.
There’s nothing more embarrassing than arriving late to a funeral. Plan your journey so you have plenty of time to get there, and make sure that you are seated long before proceedings start. Getting there late suggests a lack of respect and we are sure this is not what you want to portray. Whatever your excuse, it will not go down well. If the worst happens and you are late, then don’t charge into the church in a rush. Hover outside and choose a suitable time to suitably shuffle in – perhaps during a song or a hymn. Be as quiet as you possibly can and sit at the back rather than trying to get down to the front.
Actually, perhaps there IS something more embarrassing than turning up to a funeral late – having your mobile phone go off in the middle of the service. This is an excruciating thing to happen, and you will irritate everybody else around you. Never enter a funeral without turning your phone off – even when it’s on silent it can vibrate and this is just as annoying. Whatever it is can wait!
A funeral is not the time to assert your individuality – always turn up in black or dark clothes. You don’t have to wear black from head to foot – a bit of colour is nice. But leave the Hawaiian shirt at home yeah?
You may get a chance to talk to the family, or you may not, but either way it is good etiquette to send a written card expressing your sympathy. This will be a great cause of comfort for the family during what is a very difficult time for them. Don’t use email as it’s too informal, and don’t call the family’s house unless it is for something specific – they will call you if they want to talk. Be sincere in your wording and think carefully about what you write. It’s a nice idea to share a specific memory of the person that has died rather than a generic ‘sorry for your loss’ message.
At most funerals, whether its a regular funeral service or Southern California burial at sea, there is either a collection or a place to leave flowers – follow whatever you are told to do. If you are contributing money to a fund then don’t throw in small change – this is insulting. If you send flowers make sure they are accompanied with a sensitive note.
Funerals can be difficult, but as long as you are polite and follow the rules you’ll be fine.
Mary James has been a part of ChristianFunerals, a Christian funeral company. She is very compassionate and she understands human psychology.
A Journey With Wings
244 N Dale #223
Fullerton, CA 92833